Trump grand jury may hear criticism of star prosecution witness

A Manhattan grand jury set to vote soon on whether to indict Donald J. Trump may hear testimony attacking the prosecution’s star witness on Monday, according to people with knowledge of the case.

The testimony would come from an attorney, Robert J. Costello, who would appear at the request of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, the sources said. Mr. Costello was once legal counsel to Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, who served as a key witness for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Mr. Costello and Mr. Cohen argued, and Mr. Costello would only appear to undermine Mr. Cohen’s credibility, the people said.

Under New York law, a person who should be charged can request that a witness appear on their behalf. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have requested that Mr. Costello testify, but the final decision rests with the grand jury; it is not known whether they have made a decision. The grand jury heard evidence of the former president’s involvement in a silent payment to a porn star.

Mr. Costello’s appearance would come shortly after Mr. Cohen concluded his own testimony before a grand jury. If Mr. Costello testifies, it is also possible that Mr. Cohen will be invited back to refute some of Mr. Costello’s claims.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment, as did Mr. Costello. A lawyer for Mr. Cohen, Lanny J. Davis, could not immediately be reached for comment.

District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, is expected to seek Mr. Trump’s indictment as early as this week. There have been several signals that charges may be imminent: Prosecutors have given Mr. Trump the opportunity to testify, a right afforded to those soon to be indicted. They have now interviewed nearly every major player in the Hush Money saga before the grand jury.

Mr Cohen paid the silent payment of $130,000 to porn star, Stormy Daniels, to bury her affair story with Mr Trump.

The payment came on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, and Mr. Trump subsequently reimbursed Mr. Cohen. Prosecutors are expected to charge Mr. Trump with overseeing the false recording of refunds in his company’s internal records. The records incorrectly stated that the payments to Mr. Cohen were for “legal costs”.

Mr Trump denied any wrongdoing, as well as having had an affair with Ms Daniels, and called the investigation politically motivated. He also called Mr. Bragg, a Democrat and the first black to serve as district attorney, a “racist.”

Mr. Costello’s appearance before the grand jury on Monday would likely trigger a series of attacks from Mr. Trump’s lawyers on Mr. Cohen’s credibility. If the case goes to trial, they should point out that Mr. Cohen himself pleaded guilty to federal crimes in 2018 stemming from the silent payment of the money, and discuss other episodes in the former’s personal history. repairer.

But prosecutors can counter that Mr. Cohen was lying about the silent payment on behalf of Mr. Trump, and has been consistent in telling his story in recent years.

Mr. Costello is likely to argue that Mr. Cohen cannot be trusted. In 2018, as Mr. Cohen faced the federal secret money investigation, a mutual friend introduced the two men. Mr. Costello offered to represent Mr. Cohen, and they spent hours meeting and talking on the phone.

As a Republican attorney with ties to Mr. Trump’s legal team, Mr. Costello has offered to act as a bridge between Mr. Cohen and the president’s attorneys. At one point, Mr. Costello contacted one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys to ask if the president could pardon Mr. Cohen.

But forgiveness never came and Mr. Cohen never officially retained Mr. Costello. Mr. Cohen later waived their attorney-client privilege, Mr. Costello said.

Their relationship soured when Mr. Cohen broke up with Mr. Trump and became one of his main antagonists.

“We will not be involved in this trip,” Mr. Costello wrote to Mr. Cohen in a 2018 email, adding that his law firm “will send you an invoice.” When he came, Mr. Cohen refused to pay.


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